Since, for all intents and purposes, the Blackhawks had a playoff spot clinched in mid-March, the anticipation has been building for a game that actually held some meaning for the Hawks. The last couple of weeks have only been exciting in terms of figuring out who would
back into succeed in capturing the #8 seed in the West. Would it be the rival Red Wings, a perfect send off for two storied rivals soon to be separated by the fuckery of realignment? Could it be beloved Lumbus, the little engine that could that everyone wrote off as losing the draft lottery to Edmonton again once the season concluded? Alas, no. The Hawks get stuck playing the Wild. FART NOISE.
As I did last season, I have been tasked dear reader with informing you why you should hate the Blackhawks’ opponents in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Let’s just hope that, unlike last year, I get to write more than one of these.
1) Craig Leipold
Recall last summer, when the two biggest free-agents in recent memory, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, were both on the market. Teams were falling over one another attempting to sign them. Most were pretty surprised when Minnesota, not known for making a huge splash in the offseason signed them both for humangous big contracts: both received 13 years/$98 million from Leipold’s seemingly deep pockets. Fast forward to the fall and the lockout – who was one of the team owners instrumental in negotiations, bitching about long, expensive contracts and how the NHL was losing money? That’s right, Craig Leipold. Here’s a couple of quotes to get your blood boiling:
“We’re not making money, and that’s one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we are spending.” (4/11/12)
“We’re fine financially,” (1/24/13 – post lockout, said FROM HIS VACATION IN THE BAHAMAS)
There’s a lot of blame to go around for the fact we only got to see 48 regular season games this year. But make no mistake: Craig Leipold is a hypocrite and one of the things wrong with today’s NHL. Rich bastard.
2) They’re Not The North Stars
Remember earlier this year when NBCSN featured the Wild and Blackhawks game as part of their “Wednesday Night Rivalry” broadcast? Recall the highlights they had promoting the game – THEY WERE ALL OF A TEAM THAT CURRENTLY IS PLAYING IN DALLAS. No matter how hard they tried to push this rivalry crap, make no mistake: the team that Blackhawks fans despised from Minnesota featured Basil McRae, Dino Ciccarelli and Shane Churla. I mean they once brawled during warmups:
Is there anyone on the North Stars v2.0 that the Hawks and their fans have that level of hatred for? Cal Clutterbuck is a pest with inflated hit counts (USELESS STAT) and a dumb mustache. Dany Heatley? There’s a lot of hatred for his past actions off the ice, but he’s just annoying as a player and sometimes you don’t even know he’s in the building. He’s injured and out for the season anyway. Zenon Konopka? He’s basically John Scott with a bunny. A cute one at that. Maybe since the Wild and Blackhawks will be in CONFERENCE III together or whatever the hell they’re calling it, that level of intensity of bile and snarl will return. But they’ll never, ever match what the North Stars and Blackhawks once had.
3) State of Hockey
If you’ve ever seen a game in Minnesota, they’ll cram their “State of Hockey” motto down your throat every chance they get. Yes, hockey is big in Minnesota — I mean the snow doesn’t melt until June in some areas — what else are you going to do? And Minnesota can boast that they are the state that the most American-born NHL players call home. But currently, only about 20% of American NHL players can claim Minnesota as their birthplace — that’s hardly a majority. And consider this — the State of Hockey was SOOOO invested in hockey that attendance was one of the reasons the North Stars left for the hockey paradise known as Dallas in 1993. Lastly, some of these great fans just this past Friday booed Josh Harding during a paddling by the Oilers. Josh Harding, coming on in relief of Niklas Backstrom, making his first appearance since being out for several months suffering from complications from Multiple Sclerosis. Josh Harding, the odds on favorite to win this year’s Masterton Trophy. MINNESOTA NICE MY ASS!
4) It’s Christmas!
Ok, I admit I don’t mind this jersey. If you’re going to wear this during the months of November and December. But in autumn and spring? HO HO HO!
5) Nick Leddy
Maybe this isn’t a reason to hate the Wild so much as to point and laugh. In February 2010,
Minnesota traded the rights to Leddy and defenseman Kim Johnsson (RIP) for Cam Barker. At the time, Johnsson was a decent defenseman who unfortunately was concussed and never to be seen again before the Hawks’ run to the Cup. Or at least that’s what we’re told. Leddy was Minnesota’s “Mr. Hockey” in 2009, yet a somewhat unproven prospect playing his first year at the University of Minnesota. Cam Barker, while being the #3 overall pick in 2004 behind Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, hadn’t lived up to his potential yet, but was still young at 23.
Needless to say, we don’t need to expound how this turned out. Leddy has developed into one of the best young defensemen in the league, while Barker is currently on his fourth NHL team, having spent most of his time post-2010 in assorted press boxes.
Oh and Johnsson is still dead (RIP).
But if you really want a good laugh, check out this post from the Hockey Wilderness blog from the summer of 2010. LOLLERCOASTER.
A final disclaimer: I found this much more difficult to write than last year’s tome against the Coyotes. I’ve seen a couple games in St. Paul, and the Xcel Energy Center is a great place to watch a hockey game. Plus, the Minnesota fans were nothing less than hospitable. Additionally, my partner has family in Minnesota and she’s claimed them as her second favorite team, so I have to watch what I say. Then again, I didn’t really hate the Coyotes before the playoffs last year, and now I’d like nothing less but to litter Shane Doan’s front lawn with Quebec flags. So ask me how I feel in two weeks.
Yeah, fuck your mustache, Clutterbuck.